Do you want to be my friend?

If you think you would like to smoosh faces with someone, there’s a number of socially accepted paths which you can go down in order to make that happen. It’s OK to ask the person in question for their contact details, even if you’ve just met. It’s OK to ask them for a follow up meeting. You can hang out, see how it goes. It’s even OK (if they’re into it) to just go right ahead and smoosh faces.
There are guidelines when it comes to dating.  Everyone knows you’ll have to take some risks, be a little brave. It isn’t easy but at least there’s a script to follow.
The strange thing is that these guidelines only apply if the desired end result is face smooshing. What I don’t understand is this – why isn’t it socially acceptable to say, “Hey, I like you. Do you want to be friends with me?”
Making friends is something that makes me incredibly anxious. It always has. Even when I was very little, when making friends is supposed to be the easiest thing in the world, I was terrible at it. When I got older, I realised that shyness is something you can fight against. It took a long time and a lot of practise to get good at social things but I did it. These days, it’s relatively easy to meet people. I can do small talk. Unfortunately it’s still much harder to make the leap to being friends.
I’ve often wished you could skip the awkward getting to know each other stage of friendship and head straight to easy, comfortable conversation. There’s so much awkwardness there, so much repetition, so much uncertainty. When you want to date someone, it’s very normal to sit down and spend a good hour or two laying down the basics. With friends it can take years to really know each other. Making friends, properly close friends, takes time.
A few times in my life I have desperately wanted to be friends with someone. I’ve wished that I could just ask them, without it being weird. It seems so strange to skirt around the subject when it should (theoretically) be such an easy question to ask – do you want to be my friend? Instead we get to know each other casually and gradually until friendship is a thing both parties take for granted. The problem with this process is that it relies a lot on chance meetings and random encounters. It assumes you’ll see the person often enough to get through those initial few stages of friendship. Sometimes that’s not going to happen naturally. In those cases, it’s all too easy to let the relationship slide and it’s sad to see a potential friendship slip away because no one really knew how to initiate it.
There are people down here in Melbourne who I want to know better. Before I moved down I thought that would be easy. We’d be in the same city, how hard could it be? Turns out it’s the regular amount of hard. There’s no script. You have to make it up. You have to be brave.
The older I get, the harder this whole process gets. It becomes more and more difficult to rely on circumstance to form friendships for you. The adult world isn’t big on chance meetings, especially not repeated ones. I met my best friend at high school. We had all our classes together for four years and it took that long to cement our friendship. With the possible exception of work (assuming I ever get a regular job) I’m unlikely to have that kind of extended, unplanned interaction with someone again. My friendships just don’t work that way any more.
The internet makes all this simultaneously easier and much harder. On the one hand, you can meet someone at a party and then add them on Facebook. BAM! Instant friends. Sometimes this works. Sometimes months of casual Twitter interaction translates into real friendship miles. On the other hand, being friends online is often very, very difficult to translate into IRL friendtimes. If you invite someone to a Facebook event, does that mean they’ll actually come?
I know a lot of people in Melbourne. I have no shortage of casual acquaintances and I-guess-we’re-friends. What I really want though, is people who’ll come to my house on a regular basis to play board games and eat pasta and lie around on the floor talking inanely about television. I don’t know who those people will be yet. Intimate friendships evolve organically and that takes time and effort. It takes circumstance. It all gets rather complicated.
I wish it was OK to just ask, to just take a punt on a relationship and see how it goes. I wish I could just say – “I think we could be friends, do you want to give it a try?”

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year